Tuesday, 2 December 2014


I’ve found a place, which is as close to being on the moon, without ever having to leave earth. Endless swathes of sand dunes spool out along the coastline to create a mist-shrouded desert as mysterious and as surreal as its name – The Skeleton Coast.

It’s a place so silent and desolate and devoid of people, so scattered with rusting shipwrecks and bones that it would make the perfect setting for a dystopic novel.

The first indication that we’re entering a strange, surreal world is a sign on a rock. We approach the coast along a hazardous route through ghostly white fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean. Shrouded in mist it’s hard to know direction. This is not a place to wander into alone, or go off track, or run short on fuel. It’s a place of wild, haunting beauty that will swallow the casual traveller whole. Its remoteness impossible to imagine. Its dunes endless. Its coastline wild and treacherous.

Vast expanses of sand totally devoid of human life (except for the five of us clutching mugs of coffee and wrapped in more layers of clothing than I could ever imagine wearing in a desert).

But we aren’t alone. When we arrive at the coast, the sky is tinged crimson with flamingos and the sand tinged maroon with tiny amethysts, surreally interspersed with brown hyena footprints. The hyenas come down to the sea to hunt seal cubs. Oryx droppings on barren dunes show they too exist here living off dew and desert melons. 

A tiny shack of rough-built wood with an unlocked door is surely one of the most remote museums in the world. Yellowed newspaper accounts of wrecks are tacked to its walls and dusty tables are strewn with ancient whalebones, old divers’ suits, anchors covered in verdegris and an ancient wooden aeroplane propeller. Brave stories of survival, not dissimilar to any dystopic novel – the only difference being that these are true.


In strong contrast to those cast up here, we lunch in the freezing mist at the edge of this isolated stretch of the Atlantic and pop open a bottle of bubbly. The return inland to our tents next to the dry Hoanib River with a dust storm fast approaching, is in silence. The mind and body stilled by the surreal day... and the desert.

twitter: @dihofmeyr
most recent picture book:

Zeraffa Giraffa illustrated by Jane Ray. Top 100 Children's Classics List – THE SUNDAY TIMES


Penny Dolan said...

I'm doing some desk-travelling with you, Dianne,as I read this post. What an adventure!

Becca McCallum said...

Amazing landscape - and some fantastic photographs too.

Nicola Morgan said...

Beautiful and fascinating, Dianne

Joan Lennon said...

Amazing photos - I want to go there so much! Thanks for sharing this!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Thanks everyone... I've just heard from someone on Facebook that the Hoanib Camp has just this Nov, won the 'Out of this World Award' in Tatler. It's certainly an amazing camp to visit if you ever go to the Skeleton Coast (and I don't have shares in the company!)

David Thorpe said...

It's brilliant. What a location for freeing your mind.

Nicky Schmidt said...

Wonderful post, Dianne!
A friend from London has just returned home, having driven 3000kms around Namibia, including the Skeleton Coast - she particularly recommended Wolwedans Camp. So maybe next time... :-)